Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Blame the "What the Hell" Effect for Holiday Weight Gain

What is it with the holidays that makes us so indulgent and frivolous when it comes to healthy eating? Think about it, restaurants are packed to the brim, cupboards are stashed with cookies, donuts and fruit cake, the LCBO is sold out of all kinds of booze and eggnog is flowing like the rapids. In fact, at this time of year, Canadians splurge and spend an average of nearly $400 million on candy, sweets and treats, another $1.9 billion on booze, and guzzle eight million litres of eggnog. Another fun fact is that just one average holiday meal clocks in at around 3,000 calories but one pound of fat gained is worth 3,500 calories. Try burning that off at the gym (it'll take you a week). This holiday fact-sharing is just so heart warming!

Right, so why do we allow ourselves to behave this way? Scientists call it the "What the Hell" effect, and it goes just how it sounds. "We have a tendency to say: 'Oh what the hell, my diet is broken already and there's nothing I can do about it now. I'll just go ahead and eat everything in sight and go on a new diet tomorrow. Or next week. Or maybe next month,' " says Janet Polivy, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto at Mississauga.

It's human nature to want to eat what is tasty and available; we love sugar, fat and salt, and if there's a plate of cookies or truffles in our faces, and all our friends are savouring the goodness, we can't help but want to partake. This is why attempting to lose weight over the holidays is not only inadvisable, but often futile - who wants to be depressed and feel as though they're missing out this time of year or feel guilty for giving in? There are ways you can avoid feeling that way.

Shift your focus to avoiding weight gain rather than losing weight, enjoy a few treats as you wish but be sure to balance your days out. Don't eat everything in sight, but do eat what you really love -- and make sure to exercise. If you could ever get away with skipping the gym, now is not the time! We all need all the help we can get if we still want to avoid feelings of guilt at holiday parties and still be able to wear our pants and dresses by the end of this month. Now go forth and be brave, but be sure to enjoy!